Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu – A Tale of Two MoFi Pressings

More Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 1970 Masterpiece, Deja Vu

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Sonic Grade: F (or not!)

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Just for fun about 10 years ago I pulled out a MoFi pressing of Deja Vu I had laying around. I hadn’t played their version in a long time. I could have gone a lot longer without playing it, because what I heard was pretty disappointing. Playing their record confirmed all my prejudices. The highs sizzled and spit. The heart of the midrange was recessed and sour.

Know what it reminded me of? A bad Japanese pressing. (Since most of them are pretty bad I could have just said a typical Japanese pressing, but that’s another story for another day.)

And if that’s not bad enough, the bass definition disappeared. Bass notes and bass parts that were clearly audible and easily followed on our Hot Stamper copies were murky, ill-defined mud on the MoFi.

If you own the MoFi you owe it to yourself to hear a better sounding version. You really don’t know what you’re missing.

But Then, A Few Years Later We Played This Copy…

Hot Stamper Sound on the MoFi pressing of Deja Vu, can it be possible? I have NEVER heard the MoFi sound this good, not even close. This just KILLS the other copies I’ve heard. I wrote a scathing review of their badly mastered pressing which you can read below, and I still stand behind every word, because this copy is not your average MoFi. The average one still sucks. What we are selling here is a FLUKE. Here is the story from our Hot Stamper shootout we just did.

This week we picked up a very clean looking MoFi pressing and decided to throw it in the shootout just for fun. We were shocked — this one actually sounded good! Not as amazing as our best Hot Stampers, but much better than we had expected. We checked our old copy and heard the same bad sound described above. 

Pressing variations exist for audiophile records as well, and here was another example. It just goes to show that nothing short of playing a record will tell you how it sounds — except for reading our website! Who besides us could spend so much time playing so many bad records? It’s a dirty job, but we’re happy to do it. Hearing one amazing record makes up for playing 10 bad ones, so we’ll keep at it.

A classic case of Live and Learn.

Keep in mind that the only way you can never be wrong about your records is to simply avoid playing them. If you have better equipment than you did, say, five or ten years ago, try playing some of your MoFi’s, 180 gram LPs, Japanese pressings, 45 RPM remasters and the like. You might be in for quite a shock.

It’s all good — until the needle hits the groove. Then you might find yourself in need of actual Better Records, not the ones you just hoped were better.

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Debut

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  • This an unusually good sounding copy of CCR’s debut boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • The sound is big and rich with a punchy bottom, perfect for swamp rockers like I Put a Spell on You and Susie Q
  • A tough album to find with sound and surfaces as good as these – not as many copies qualify to make it to the site as we would like
  • 4 stars: “…the band’s sound is vibrant, with gutsy arrangements that borrow equally from Sun, Stax, and the swamp.

It’s unlikely you will be demonstrating your system with this record, but you may find yourself enjoying the hell out of it for what it is — a prime example of a Roots Rock ‘n’ Roll album that sounds RIGHT, with music that still holds up today.

Good luck finding a copy of this album with even one side that sounds this good. Most copies are grainy, murky, and veiled. It took a good-sized stack of copies to find any that had bottom end weight, midrange presence, freedom from grain (mostly) and real energy.

Roots Rock

What the best sides of this classic Creedence album have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1968
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the vocals, guitars and drums having the correct sound for this recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does. (more…)

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto – Getz-Gilberto #2

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Live Jazz sound from start to finish 
  • This original stereo pressing is the first copy to make it to the site in years – boy are these hard to find in this kind of clean condition with top quality sonics
  • Rich, tubey and musical, the sound is wonderful for these live performances of two very different groups, one featuring Getz, the other Jobim 
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Getz/Gilberto #2 holds its own with an appealing selection of fine jazz and bossa nova cuts.”

This original Verve Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in a real jazz club, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Records are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

Yes’s First Album on Plum and Orange

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and the first to hit the site in many years
  • This UK Original Plum and Orange pressing is by far the best way to hear the album, but finding a clean one was no walk in the park
  • “In an era when psychedelic meanderings were the order of the day, Yes delivered a surprisingly focused and exciting record that covered lots of bases…” – All Music

I wish I could say that this was the sonic (or musical) equivalent of Fragile of The Yes Album — or even the second album, Time and a Word — but that’s simply not the case. Still, there’s a lot to like here and it’s fun to hear the band developing their style and growing into the pop-prog behemoth they would become with their third release.

What shootout winning sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above. (more…)

Brahms, Handel, Chopin – Lincoln Mayorga, Pianist – Reverse Your Polarity!

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This IMMACULATE Sheffield Direct-to-Disc LP with Very Little Sign Of Play (VLSOP) is one of the best Sheffields. Lincoln Mayorga is an accomplished classical pianist: this is arguably his best work. (I had a chance to see him perform at a recital of Chopin’s works early in 2010 and he played superbly — for close to two hours without the aid of sheet music I might add.) 

You might want to try reversing the phase when playing this LP; it definitely helps the sound, a subject we discuss below.

This is another one of the Pressings We’ve Discovered with Reversed Polarity.

Reversing the absolute phase on this record recently was quite interesting. The sound of the piano itself was already very good. With the phase reversed what really changed with the sense of space surrounding it, which immediately became much more palpable. The piano, though tonally similar to the way it sounded with the phase left alone, came to life more — more solid and punchy and percussive.

How do you change the absolute phase you ask? You must either switch the positive and negative at the speaker, the amp, or at the head shell leads, or you must have a switch that inverts phase on your preamp or phono stage. (The EAR 324p we use has just such a switch and let me tell you, it comes in very handy in situations like these.) If you can’t do any of those, or are unwilling to do any of those, this record will still sound good. It just won’t sound as good.

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

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  • A MONSTER Shootout Winning early pressing with incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – this is the EKTIN you have been waiting for!
  • Live-in-Your-Listening-Room sound throughout – miles beyond any copy you’ve heard (or ever will hear)
  • Includes immortal classics such as “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Down by the River,” just to name three
  • 5 stars: “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general… almost 30 years later [make that 49], he was still playing this sort of music with Crazy Horse, and a lot of contemporary bands were playing music clearly influenced by it.”

The sound of this Hot Stamper copy is Big and Bold in the best Neil Young tradition, with studio ambience bouncing off the walls and into the open mics he favors.

The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality, with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY. We absolutely love that sound. With a killer pressing played back on a big pair of speakers this album can ROCK like nobody’s business. Nine minutes of Down by the River? A ten minute long version of Cowgirl in the Sand? Cinnamon Girl? We are so there. (more…)

Bernard Herrmann – Conducts Jane Eyre And Other Film Scores

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This BEYOND White Hot Stamper Side Two completely blew our minds with Bernard Herrmann orchestral MAGIC. Side two is just OUT OF THIS WORLD. Since side two is where the Three Worlds of Gulliver suite is found — the very same superbly recorded music that is on Harry’s Super Disc List — you can be sure that is this is some of the best sounding Bernard Herrmann music you will ever have the opportunity to hear, if not THE best. The sound is DEMONSTRATION QUALITY of the HIGHEST ORDER. 

When it comes to this side two what we have here is a record that sounds so good, with the needle hits the groove you will feel like you’ve just threaded up the master tape and hit play. The effect is that you’re so totally IMMERSED in the musical experience you forget you’re listening to a record. You’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians intended it to sound. You can’t ask for more than that. (more…)

The Pentangle – Pentangling

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side one and a superb Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy could not be beat
  • The unprocessed quality found throughout the album has its audiophile credentials fully in order, especially in the area of guitar harmonics, as well as drums that sound like real drums actually sound
  • The foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, with Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them
  • The best material from Pentangle’s amazing first six albums, with sound that’s full of British Analog Tubey Magic
  • “Pentangling is filled to the brim with some of the finest recordings the British folk movement had to offer…”

This album presents the classic 1969 lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot.

The unprocessed folky sound found throughout the album has its audiophile credentials fully in order, especially in the area of guitar harmonics, as well as drums that sound like real drums actually sound. (How many of the ’70s rock albums in our Top 100 have that natural drum sound? Not many when you stop to think about it.)

When I was selling audio equipment back in the ’70s this was one of our Demo Discs. The song Pentangling has beautifully recorded drums and string bass. The first track, I’ve Got A Feeling, is lovely as well.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky sweet and Tubey Magical, this is the sound we love here at Better Records. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Blonde on Blonde – Sundazed Mono Junk

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Sonic Grade: D

Flat as a pancake and dead as a doornail, like most Sundazed records. Sundazed is clearly one of the worst record labels of all time. 

Nat King Cole – Unforgettable

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Our shootout winner here had the clearest, most natural vocals, with a living, breathing Nat King Cole front and center. Hard to believe some of these songs date back to 1946, with the most recent being from 1954. No matter; whatever the limitations of the recording technology, they knew enough of what they were doing to get Nat’s voice consistently right for practically every track. 

One of the key elements we noticed on the best of the best was the relaxation in Nat’s performance. He sings so effortlessly on the best copies; on other pressings you often don’t notice that casual quality.

Warmth and sweetness were nearly as important, the distinctive and unmistakeable hallmarks of vintage All Tube Analog. Each of these qualities combined to make the music on these sides as thoroughly involving and enchanting as any album of its kind we have ever offered.

The Hunt

Naturally we’re always on the lookout for Nat King Cole records with good sound. In our experience finding them is not nearly as easy as one might think it would be. Far too many of his recordings are drenched in bad reverb, with sound that simply can’t be taken seriously — fine for old consoles but not so good on modern audiophile equipment.

At least one we know of has his voice out of phase with the orchestra on most copies, which put a quick end to any hope of finishing the shootout we had started.

If anything the sound on his albums gets even worse in the ’60s. Many of Nat’s albums from that decade are over-produced, bright, thin and shrill. (more…)